The Lal Ishtahar and the Bloodbath of Hindus in Bengal

The Lal Ishtahar and the Bloodbath of Hindus in Bengal

Among other unspeakable crimes he committed against India, the deplorable “Lord” Curzon is notable for three measured by the impact and scale of destruction: The infamous Partition of Bengal in 1905, his “education policy” which singularly wiped out Sanskrit education that had existed unbroken for hundreds of years, and his role in slowly allowing the victims of the Great Indian Famine in 1899-1900 to die of starvation. Curzon’s villainy is so enormous and far-reaching that it should have remained in the active memory of all Indians. Ideally, a Holocaust Museum of sorts should have been built in Bengal at least, to serve as a grim reminder. But then we are a nation whose own history books still need fixing.

The Bengal Partition, which Acharya R.C. Majumdar[i] says was the “crowning act of [Curzon’s] folly” directly unleashed the extraordinary Swadeshi movement spectacularly unnerved the British. The Swadeshi Movement by itself stands as one of the grandest episodes in human history, far greater than the American struggle for independence or even the Civil Rights Movement. We turn to Acharya Majumdar again[ii] to get a glimpse of its impact on the colonial British administration:

The four-fold ramification of the Swadeshi movement industrial, educational, cultural and political—and its spread all over India unnerved the Government of India. It was not long before they realized that a local movement for removing a local grievance was being slowly, but steadily, developed into an all-India national movement against British rule. Lord Minto found it difficult to kill the hydra-headed monster let out of the basket of his predecessor. Lord Curzon.

Quite obviously, the rattled British responded with the only method they had perfected: by unleashing a reign of terror throughout Bengal. But when even that failed, Curzon re-enlisted the support of the Islamic zealot, Khwaja Salimullah, the Nawab of Dhaka. In February 1904, Curzon had already seduced Salimullah to support the Partition of Bengal. Curzon’s government gave him a loan of ₹ 14 Lakhs at an extremely low rate of interest in return for his support at quelling the protests against the Partition of Bengal. It was the self-same Nawab Salimullah who became the founding Vice President of the All India Muslim League in 1906, which finally succeeded in realizing the Pakistan “vision” that Syed Ahmed Khan had first formulated so early on.

Nawab Salimullah with the full support of the British Government swung into action. The first step was to provoke Hindu hatred in the Muslim community. Which was a rather easy task given the hold the Ulema has on the community. In this vile project, he recruited a fanatic named Ibrahim Khan, who authored and published a piece of the “most virulent anti-Hindu proclamation and an open incitement of the Muslims against the Hindus.” This pamphlet was titled Lal Ishtahar or Red Pamphlet. Here are a few extracts from it.

  • The Hindus, by various stratagems, are relieving the Mahomedans of nearly the whole of the money earned by them. Among the causes of the degradation of Mahomedans is their association with the Hindus.
  • Among the means to be adopted for the amelioration of Mahomedans, is boycotting Hindus.
  • Ye Musalmans arise, awake ! Do not read in the same schools with Hindus. Do not buy anything from a Hindu shop. Do not touch any article manufactured by Hindu hand. Do not give any employment to a Hindu. Do not accept any degrading office under a Hindu. You are ignorant, but if you acquire knowledge you can at once send all Hindus to jehannum (hell). You form the majority of the population of this Province. Among the cultivators also you form the majority. It is agriculture that is the source of wealth. The Hindu has no wealth of his own and has made himself rich only by despoiling you or your wealth. If you become sufficiently enlightened, then the Hindus wall starve and soon become Mahomedans.
  • Hindus are very selfish. As the progress of Mahomedans is inimical to the self-aggrandisement of Hindus, the latter will always oppose Mahomedan progress for their selfish ends.
  • Be united in boycotting Hindus. What dire mischief have they not done to us ! They have robbed us of honour and wealth. They have deprived us of our daily bread. And now they are going to deprive us of our very life.

Lal Ishtahar also contained a poem recalling the glories of Arab military conquests in India and elsewhere, and to revive the same glory here and now.

The consequences were immediate and brutal.

In East Bengal, there was an outbreak of barbaric violence against Hindus. Comilla (now known as Cumilla, in the Chittagong Divison in Bangladesh) and Jamalpur (now in the Mymensingh Division, Bangladesh) were littered with the blood and dead bodies of Hindus. For four horrific days beginning on 4 March 1907, Comilla was witness to unspeakable Muslim atrocities against Hindus. It was not coincidental that that was the day Nawab Salimullah visited Comilla to “put fresh vigour into the anti-Swadeshi agitation.” Acharya R.C. Majumdar narrates[iii] happened next:

When the Nawab was being taken in a procession through the public streets, there occurred a case of assault on Hindus, and looting of a few Hindu, particularly Hindu Swadeshi, shops. These incidents were a signal for a general outbreak of hooliganism involving assault, looting, destruction of properties and arson… On the other hand, the Government officials were full of praise for the Muhammadans…The Comilla riot was followed by various other outbreaks of a similar nature….Consider able bodies of Muhammadans, armed with lathis mustered from time to time and molested the Hindus. As a result there was wide-spread panic among the Hindu minority population in East Bengal…

Salimullah and his goon squad had drawn Hindu blood. Very successfully. Now it was time to spread the terror elsewhere. Jamalpur was chosen. Here is what[iv] happened.

The most serious disturbance .broke out at Jamalpur in the District of Mymensingh. In addition to the troubles in the town started by the Muslims in the course of which hundreds of Hindus—men and women—had to take shelter in a temple throughout the night, the riot spread to outside area. There were indiscriminate looting and molestation of Hindus in a large number of localities.

The British war correspondent H.W. Nevinson who visited India during this period gives the following account in his 1908 book, The New Spirit in India:

I have almost invariably found English officers…on the side of the Mohammedan, where there is any rivalry of…religion… in Eastern Bengal this national inclination is now encouraged by the Government’s open resolve to retain the Mohammedan support of the Partition by any means…It was against the Hindus only that all the petty persecution of officialdom was directed. It was they who were excluded from Government posts ;it was Hindu schools from which Government patronage was withdrawn. When Mohammedans rioted, the punitive police ransacked Hindu houses… mullahs went through the country preaching the revival of Islam and proclaiming to the villagers that the British Government was on the Mohammedan side, that the Law Courts had been specially suspended for three months, and no penalty would be exacted for violence done to Hindus, or for the loot of Hindu shops, or the abduction of Hindu widows A Red Pamphlet was everywhere circulated, maintaining the same wild doctrines… In Comilla, Jamalpur and a few other places, rather serious riots occurred…lives were lost, temples were desecrated, images broken, shops plundered, and many Hindu widows carried off. Some of the towns were deserted, the Hindu population took refuge in “pukka” houses (i e., house with brick in stone walls), women spent nights hidden in tanks, the crime known as “group-rape” increased, and throughout the country districts there reigned a general terror, which still prevailed at the time of my visit.

Compare this grisly account with what has been happening in modern-day West Bengal: the border districts and towns and villages which have turned into bomb-making factories and Jihad industrial hubs. All under the active watch and collusion of the state’s Monster Chief Minister.

There’s another revealing evidence coming directly from the proverbial horse’s mouth about the gruesome nature of these anti-Hindu riots. It comes from none less than a Special Magistrate who adjudged the riots cases. He observes[v] in his judgement how

The accused, Habil Sircar had read over a notice to a crowd of Musalmans and had told them that the Government and the Nawab Bahadur of Dacca had passed orders to the effect that nobody, would be punished for plundering and oppressing the Ilindas. Soon after, the image of Kali (Hindu goddess) was broken by the Musalmans and the shops of the Hindu traders were also plundered.

Oh! And here is what happened to Ibrahim Khan, the author and publisher of the incendiary Lal Ishtahar, the originator of these large-scale Hindu atrocities against Hindus? The District Magistrate of Mymensingh tried and released Ibrahim Khan on “personal recognizance bond of ₹ 1000/-“ and a warning. Contrast this with the kind of brutal sentences that Hindus were meted out for merely chanting Vande Matram in public. In today’s India there are scores of Ibrahim Khans in various legislative assemblies and a few in Parliament as well.

Of course, our educational system (which functions only in its absence) won’t carry any lessons on such important episodes as Lal Ishatar because it is Ashuddho.


[i] R.C. Majumdar (2002). THE PARTITION OF BENGAL. History of the Indian Freedom Movement Vol 2, p 3.

[ii] Ibid p85. Emphasis added.

[iii] Ibid p104. Emphasis added.

[iv] Ibid p105

[v] Ibid p106

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